The Cook Awakening

2020 Summertime Skills

August 2, 2020
Posted in: Seasonal Change

Summertime. There’s a quickening as the sun comes out more consistently. Even in times such as these, as the world grapples with how best to respond to the pandemic, how best to respond to government over-reach or under-reach.

Whether you’re in an area that is opening up COVID-19 restrictions quickly or cautiously, there’s probably a bit more options for activity — socializing outside, folks figuring out how to work safely, whether with masks or in the open air (I now have an outside office on my side porch with plenty of airflow and distance), perhaps some travel to see family or camp.

I have numerous clients coming in with reports of general over stimulation, and self judgment about it. “I shouldn’t be feeling like this! I used to do three times what I’m doing now with no problem at all!”

Borage and Jude the Obscure rose in spring water and sunshine, Fierce Love flower essence in the making.

You may know that I have been on many meditation retreats. I lived part time in a meditation center for 10 years in my 30s. There were long retreats that I participated in. I continued to go to week long retreats after I became a mom and the family could manage with me being gone.

Re-entering daily life after a long period of relative silence takes care. We are sensitive beings with nervous systems that need care. Especially if we have significant wounding or trauma from childhood or our lineages!

I still notice a generalized, uncomfortable “buzz” in my body the first day after a retreat. Just talking to someone for more than a couple of minutes can feel overstimulating after days of quiet. I’ll never forget the first retreat I went on 35 years ago. Luckily one of the teachers was kind enough to coach me a bit. “Hold onto your purse, you’re likely to feel a bit spaced out and forget it somewhere!” I well remember the electrified sense in my body. And, that has happened consistently after every retreat I’ve been on since. It’s a simple nervous system response.

COVID-19 has been like an enforced retreat for many of us. Unless you’re an essential worker, then you might have experienced no retreat.

If you’ve been protesting, you’ve come out of this pandemic retreat with a bang. You’re likely really feeling a speedy, jangly quality in your being.

All this to say, it’s normal to feel dysregulated right now. Life is demanding things of most of us that we’re not used to. There’s more energy in our cities, pressure to “get back to normal” and/or “change normal”. And, it’s more stimulating.

My wish for you is that you are able to take parts of your life slowly. Much of what is happening is important. We need to exercise our 1st amendment rights (in the US), we need safe social interaction, we need to support ourselves. And, we need to tend to ourselves as we adjust to more activity.

What helps your nervous system calm down? You probably already have methods. Deeper breathing. A walk in nature. Meditation. A warm bath. Time alone. Time snuggling (if you’re fortunate enough to have a snuggle partner in your pandemic pod). Time hanging out with pets. Lying on the earth, or at least bare feet in grass. Tree hugging (it’s great, try it!).

This is not selfish. This is what makes your life sustainable.

What are your calming skills? I’d love to know.

And, of course, if you’re finding you don’t have strong skills in this area, please ask for help. I have some space in my schedule. If not with me, find a trusted counselor and do the work to regulate yourself. You’re worth it.

Liberation

June 15, 2020
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Meditation, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice

A client who’s been working with me for over a year has recently been able to more fully access a core piece of suffering. We’ve both known it was there, but it took time to establish enough safety for it to come clearly into awareness.

The doorway in was to look at the way her Inner Critic was attacking her. (I’ve written more about the Inner Critic here and here.)

“She has bad genes”, was one of the things her Critic said. Bad genes.

My client’s mother is a first generation immigrant, and comes from a people whose women are often beautifully dark eyed, dark haired, and voluptuous.

In order to be “good enough” to truly belong here in the US, my client learned to measure herself to a standard of “Whiteness”. Her mother’s people don’t look like Brittney Spears, one of the images she learned to emulate growing up.

These are the waters we swim in. It goes unquestioned, until the suffering in it becomes impossible to ignore. And, some of those standards play out in the larger context as violence — the threat of violence against, or the fear of violence from anyone who doesn’t conform to these images of what we have learned to view as “normal” — whether that be Whiteness, financial security, health, body shape and size, images of femininity or masculinity, etc.
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A Prayer

May 10, 2020
Posted in: Seasonal Change

In this uncertain time, when there seems to be threat lurking and polarization everywhere, I offer this.

May all beings feel safe. May all beings have their needs met. May all beings be awake.

Late springtime backyard bouquet

For myself and for the collective

I call in resilience.

I call in the capacity to act when needed, to rest before depleted, and the discernment to know which is appropriate at any given time.

༄ I humbly request that there be wisdom infusing all decision making, that there be the capacity to listen to intuition and measured information, and use them in synergy.

༄ I call in compassion to meet fear and pain and anger, and clarity to know how to express that compassion in a way that helps calm and soothe and heal.

༄ I call in the remembrance that all things in the phenomenal world pass. All things pass.

༄ I call in blessings on those who die and blessings on those left behind.

༄ I call in the collective wisdom needed to learn from the current situation and the power and will to do what we can individually to create the change needed to further evolution infused with compassion.

༄ I call in the capacity to ride the waves of chaos and change with a relaxed and joyful discernment — engaged, loving, allowing the unfolding to be as it is, guided where it can be, surrendered to when it can’t.

༄ I call in the remembrance that all is connected. All is One.

༄ May all needs be met, even those needs that we don’t know we have.

On the Ladder

May 1, 2020
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Spiritual Practice

I’ve been dizzy. Feeling weird in my head, like my brain is a bit dislocated. Having a hard time connecting with my quarantine pod, my husband and two nearly adult kiddos. Tired. But, I can’t necessarily sleep, just feel tired. COVID-19 has changed our lives, and not much feels familiar.

I’ve been studying the Polyvagal Theory, research mainly associated with Stephen Porges, in my training with the META Institute. If you’ve studied the Polyvagal Theory, you can probably skim through the next 4 or 5 paragraphs, they’re a pretty basic explanation of that.

The Ventral portion of the Vagal nervous system is mainly located in the face, throat and neck. We are at ease when we’re in Ventral Vagal response, when we’re connected with people we feel safe with, when we can co-regulate our nervous systems together and find a feeling of security. This is the most complex part of our nervous system, the most recent to develop in evolution. It’s what gets activated, I’m convinced, when we’re at temple or church or on retreat with our spiritual communities. Our nervous systems need community to function properly, to be “happy”.

Many of us are used to hearing about fight, flight, and freeze as part of the Sympathetic nervous system response when we feel threatened, but in actuality how that works is a little more complicated.
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Being Human

April 6, 2020
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

Welcome to the realities of COVID-19.

Living in times of crisis can cause a variety of reactions. What are you noticing?

If you’re in quarantine or sheltering-in-place with access to the news, anxiety is likely no stranger to you. You may be on the front lines in health care or other essential service. You may be one of the many who have suddenly lost your livelihood. We are powerless over these events that are affecting the whole world.

I was just texting with my brother — “This seems to have really cured me of any daddy complex I might have had that someone in charge would save me if ‘things got bad’.”

Tangled


If you’ve read anything I’ve put out over the years, you know spirituality is my jam. What I mean by spirituality is pretty broad. My main interest is in what works for YOU. What is your edge that needs leaning into? Spiritual practices needs to be attuned to your personality.

Spirituality may sound like some lofty term that refers to something outside our everyday life. Maybe not particularly useful or accessible when there’s a damn pandemic going on! This is real life!

Can we redefine the term, please? Maybe call it “Embodied Spirituality”? “Human Spirituality”?

A life of Spirit that honors our Humanness so completely that there’s no separation between the two.

One of our tasks now, in order to remain as calm as possible and carry on, is nervous system regulation. That means calming down when we’re scared or angry. Waking up if we feel frozen or confused. Connecting if we feel lonely and sad.
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Your Unique Self

March 8, 2020
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Spiritual Practice

I have a few clients that are struggling with needing particular kinds of support in the world. Needing social or disability services that are not easy to get.

Many people have heard me say that the nuclear family is a failed experiment. This normalized expectation for us all to be “independent” is warping our humanity. I view the process folks have to go through to receive services as part and parcel of that. Folks have to “prove” that they’re incapacitated in quite dehumanizing ways to receive basic support. And, usually they have to prove it over and over again.

Given that many folks needing assistance are also living with a history of trauma that may actually be causing the need for assistance, we really have a system that is severely off the mark. A system that compounds the injury it professes to try to salve.

A couple of examples – if someone is suffering from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), making them responsible for filling out complicated forms to receive assistance is cruel. To offer them assistance filling those forms out with a worker who is not trained to understand the needs of someone who is not neuro-typical, who is impatient or shaming, compounds the cruelty.

I have a memory, early on in my Lyme diagnosis and treatment, of a certain receptionist in my doctor’s practice. I had some fairly significant neurological symptoms — short term memory loss, brain fog, slowed down thinking processes. This person was sharp toned, impatient when I had a hard time remembering the names of supplements I needed to order, or putting together disparate pieces of information about my treatment plan. I remember feeling ashamed, and nervous about having to talk with them.
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